Belfast Telegraph

Thursday 24 April 2014

‘Many people could have prevented my husband’s death at Obel Tower’

The wife of a construction worker who died after a fall from the Obel Tower in Belfast has said there are still questions around the events which led to his death.

Shauna Friel was speaking after the inquest into her husband Jonathan’s death concluded yesterday.

The 35-year-old bricklayer had been working as a labourer on the Obel Tower construction site when he fell 33ft (10m) down a service void. No handrails had been erected around the void, and a piece of plywood which was set inside it was not supported from underneath.

He died in the Royal Victoria Hospital on Boxing Day 2008, two weeks after sustaining severe head, chest and abdominal injuries in the fall.

Belfast-based company Fernwave, who were sub-contracted to build the floors at the Obel Tower, have already been fined £30,000 in relation to the accident.

Speaking outside the inquest in Belfast yesterday, Mrs Friel appealed to construction companies to ensure site safety.

She said: “There were so many people that could have prevented that accident.

“If the site safety checks had been carried out that morning, this would have been prevented.”

Martin McCann, health and safety officer for main contractors O’Hare and McGovern, told the inquest that a “full site audit” had been carried out the day before the accident. “If I had seen anything wrong with the service void, I would have taken appropriate action,” Mr McCann said.

He also defended the choice of handrail system, saying it was better suited to the concrete and steel floors which were being built.

Mrs Friel described the inquest as “very hard”, but thanked the coroner and jury for their sensitivity and verdict.

And she praised her close family circle for their support.

“They travelled with me every day and I just couldn’t have done it without them,” she said.

The inquest jury unanimously concluded that Mr Friel had died after falling through the unprotected void.

Coroner Brian Sherrard said he had died a “very tragic and obviously very premature death”.

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